I spoke with Dr. Christine Ristaino about her memoir, All the Silent Spaces, where she wrote about a violent assault that took place 12 years ago in front of her two young children. The attack brought to light two private sexual assaults she had kept silent about for decades. She has now discovered her powerful voice against violence and discrimination. Christine wants to change the way we talk about sexual violence in this country so survivors and their families will have voice and agency during the healing process.
In this episode of the Woman of Value Podcast, you’ll hear:
- How a public assault helped her finally heal from two private sexual assaults
- The importance of finding your authentic voice and speaking up, especially against violence and discrimination
- Learning to take a stand for your truth, even if it angers others
- Discovering the power of vulnerability
- Feeling pain and trauma fully so you can heal
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Show Notes: A Powerful Voice Against Violence and Discrimination
“Finding value in myself didn’t happen all at once, it happened over the course of twelve years, as I was writing my book, All the Silent Spaces. At first, I could only talk about and acknowledge an attack that had happened in public, when I was beaten up by a stranger at a store in front of my 3- and 5-year-old children. I thought my book was about that. But my book started to write itself, and I felt compelled to let the process unfold and see what I would discover.
A year and a half into the writing I realized two other previous experience with violence had to be included. This meant telling my family about something that was probably incomprehensible to them, that somebody they all loved had abused me. Once I told them, my whole place in the world changed. I stopped mediating and began sharing my own opinions. I didn’t know it at the time, but my voice wanted, needed to have a presence in the world. Writing helped me become who I was meant to be, a woman with a powerful voice and a story to tell.”
Finding Her Voice after Violence and Trauma
8:44 She was molested at 8 or 9 and raped violently at 21, and she just went on. She believed those events didn’t effect her. When you ignore your voice in a profound way, it becomes easier to stay silent.
11:23 We discuss the importance of vulnerability and learning how to feel. It’s easy to intellectualize, but without feeling the pain and hurt, you can’t move on to heal. That’s when she heard her voice and saw herself for the first time ever, realizing she had a lot to give to the world.
Learning to Be Authentic vs. Nice
15:00 She spent a while after the attack being afraid, but she still loves people and wants to connect deeply with others. The conversations now are much more meaningful. She no longer wants to be nice at the cost of being authentic. The result? She’s doing a better service to the world. We learn not to air our dirty laundry or share our difficulties. Being vulnerable is a strength, not a weakness.
Confronting and Overcoming Fears
19:37 She was attacked by a black man, and at first she was afraid of men who looked like her attacker. She learned not to overcome that fear. She tells the story of the father of her daughter’s friend who offered to tutor her daughter. He’d be alone with her, and she was scared to have a man be alone with her daughter because Christine had been molested as a child. She finally told him why she doesn’t trust men to be alone with her daughter. He worked with her to help her allay her fears.
The Little Girl Is Me
34:00 The original title for her book was The Little Girl Is Me. She didn’t realize that the little girl she was talking about in the book was not her daughter, it was herself who was feeling shame. It was herself who thought it was her fault. The book wasn’t about race as she thought, but about the ashamed little girl who needed to heal and get her voice heard.
Finding Your Power and Voice
55:00 How to find your power and voice? Start small. Start with a ‘sandwich’. Find out what that means here. Keep sharing your stories and speaking up. It gets easier the more you do it.
Connect With Christine
This was such a touching and powerful interview. It gets to the real core of why women attract the same relationship patterns. Not many are speaking about this. Thank you so much for doing so! Christine is amazing. She is so open about what happened to her. And how it affected her every day, because she had to use that emotional energy to repress it – without even realising she was doing that! She’s obviously done some deep healing too. Abuse is NEVER your fault 🙁 So true. And I LOVE what she says about us women when we’re in our 50’s! 🙂 And the ‘sandwich’. I know women who would struggle with that 😮
Just a quick question Sandy: I am sure you get clients quite often who have suffered abuse of some sort or another… and seen how it affects their relationship patterns? How do you handle this as a coach?
Thanks again – great interview!
So glad you found so much value in this episode, Veronica. Christine is amazing, I agree 🙂
Many of my clients have suffered some sort of abuse in the past, and I handle each case individually. Some need therapy in conjunction with coaching. Others benefit greatly from coaching alone. I provide tools for many skills that they may need, such as building self-confidence, learning to practice self-care before attending to others, learning how to speak up and set boundaries, to name a few. How about you? How do you handle abuse from the past?
Thanks for your response! I love what you say about providing them with skills. Self-care is SO key, because many ladies put themselves at the end of the line when it comes to where their energy goes, don’t they! 🙁 ). Setting boundaries is another one that many battle with. They need to know that it is okay to say, ‘this is not okay, I am feeling uncomfortable right now’!
I am a psychotherapist too, so I assist them in their healing journey. I find that if they don’t deal with the abuse, they tend to attract abusers of some sort. My speciality has become shifting people’s ‘childhood blueprint’ that keeps showing up in their relationships. You can’t believe what shows up. I’ve got to a point where, if they tell me what their attraction patterns are like, I can guess what their childhood was like!
It so inspires me when these ladies go out there and get relationships that are different to anything they’ve had before. I just love it 🙂 Isn’t it a blessing to be doing what we’re doing!
I do a downloaded family love blueprint with my clients, too. The past is definitely a precursor for future relationships unless we do the work. And I agree, there’s nothing more gratifying than watching a woman transform how she approaches relationships and find love–often for the first time in their lives!
Sounds amazing! I’m so glad I found you. I’ll look out for more podcasts – and share with my peeps too 🙂
Oh by the way! I did a video on repeating relationship patterns. Here’s the link if you’d like to take a peek! 🙂